A Disease’s Impact on a Nation
While studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder, I had the opportunity to work as a caregiver at an Assisted Living Facility down the road. My first position with that company was working with residents who were in the “memory care neighborhood”. In plain terms, I was working with residents who had Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. Throughout my time working in assisted living facilities, I was struck daily at the impact of dementia on not just the resident, but the system around them – us as providers, their families, and their friends. I knew that every time I saw a family member on a Tuesday afternoon having lunch with their Mom, a Thursday evening that friends came to celebrate a birthday, and every time a new wheelchair was ordered, it had an effect. One thing that I did not think about, at the time, was the financial impact dementia had on our nation.
I did not know this until recently, but in January 2011, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act in to law. A goal that was part of this law was to improve the ability of the government to track the financial costs that result from dementia. On April 4th, The New England Journal of Medicine published a Special Article on the Monetary Costs of Dementia in the United States. I read the highlights in a New York Times article, but you can see the full NEJM article here. What I read, while expected, is still settling in my mind. Here are the major highlights and statistics:
- The financial burden of dementia is at least as high as heart disease or cancer.
- Nearly 15% of those over the age of 71 have dementia (about 3.8 million). By 2040 that number is expected to be about 9.1 million people.
- According to the study, each case of dementia costs $41,000-$56,000 a year.
- In 2010, the total costs of dementia were $159 billion-$215 billion.
- It is estimated that potential cost by 2040 will be $379 billion-$511 billion.
After I finished reading the article, I immediately reflected back on those senior family members, friends, and wheelchairs that so frequently visited me in the Assisted Living. I had never affixed a number to each one of those visits. I never thought about the foregone wages, the cost of new shoes or pants, or the emotional cost of coming to visit one of our residents. Maybe I was just too young, at 19 years old, to realize it!
At Cariloop, we’re attacking one small piece of this total cost. We’re working with caregivers to shrink the time spent planning for and managing this search and transition process. Family members and friends frequently don’t have days and weeks to make a decision when a loved one needs care. They need to be able to generate a specific list of next steps and focus on those most appropriate for the needs of their loved one.
Whether it be an assisted living community, a memory care center, a hospice agency, or a residential care home, it can be such a huge stress reliever to have one of our Healthcare Coaches locate and research options for you. Perhaps then, family caregivers can spend those hours that would have been spent searching for the most appropriate provider on something more meaningful to them and their loved ones.
For more information on Meaningful Activities for Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease, check out this post in our Caregiver Resource section.